MS Risk Blog

Ukraine/Russia Assassinations

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Since March 2017, various news outlets have reported that in the last three years approximately 38 high-profile Russians have died under suspicious circumstances both in Russia and abroad. Since the publication of these various articles in early 2017, that number has since grown with a number of new assassinations, and assassination attempts in Ukraine that have suspected links to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin, or his allies. The most recent assassination attempt occurred in late October of this year.

On 30 October 2017 Adam Osmayev, and his wife Amina Okuyeva were attacked while driving back to their home outside of Kiev, Ukraine. It has been reported that the couple was attacked at a rail crossing where the two were gunned down by an assailant who was using a Kalashnikov rifle. Okuyeva was struck in the head twice and died at the scene. Osmayev survived the attack. This was the second attempt on Osmayev’s life. The first attempt occurred on 1 June 2017 when Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, a Chechen assassin posing as a French Journalist shot Osmayez during a fake interview in Kiev. Osmayev survived the shooting. The Ukrainian government linked the failed assassination attempt to the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB). Osmayev was accused of plotting to assassinate Putin in 2012 and was imprisoned by Ukrainian authorities. Ukraine refused to extradite Osmayev to Russia until the European Court of Human Rights considered his appeal against the extradition. Osmayev was released after serving two-and-a-half years in prison. Recently, both Osmayev and Okuyeva served in leadership roles within the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion, a paramilitary organization composed of pro-Ukrainian Islamic fighters from Chechnya, who have been fighting in Crimea and Donbass regions of Ukraine against both Russian supported rebels and Russian military forces.

On 25 October 2017 Ihor Mosiychuk, a Ukranian journalist, and far-right politician, was injured in a scooter based bomb attack as he left a television station in Kiev following an interview. Mosiychuck’s bodyguard Ruslan Kushnir and Mikhailo Mormil, a former lieutenant colonel in the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, were killed in the attack.   Mosiychuk has been an outspoken critic of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine since the conflicts in Crimea and Donbass regions began. Mosiychuk also, via a youtube video, threatened to kill Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed Head of the Chechen Republic.

On 23 March 2017 Denis Voronenkov, a former Russian MP who had fled to Ukraine after speaking out against Vladimir Putin was shot three or four times in the head and neck on the street as he left the Premier Palace hotel in Kiev. Voronenkov’s bodyguard was injured during the shooting but was able to kill the assassin. Voronenkov reportedly told another Russian MP that had escaped from Russia that he had been receiving death threats from the FSB. It was reported in the media that Voronenkov was planning to turn over evidence to be used in a legal case against Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after his removal from office in 2014.

These successful assassinations and assassination attempts are evidence that the Russian government is potentially running a shadow campaign within Ukraine to destabilize the country by showing that any enemy, critic, or dissident of Russia is not safe within the sovereign territory of Ukraine. Consequently using that fear of death to silence any future opponents to the Russian agenda in the region.